Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a real estate project in Moscow that the president was pursuing while he campaigned for office. Trump has said of Cohen, his personal lawyer of 12 years, that he is a “weak person and not a very smart person.” Asked why he kept him around so long, he told reporters, “A long time ago, he did me a favor.”

What kind of favor could justify keeping Michael Cohen, a “weak person and not a very smart person” as your personal lawyer and fixer, trusted with your life and your Stormy Daniels hush-money payments, for more than a decade? Here are my best guesses:

One morning, many years ago, Michael Cohen found a young boy crying on a doorstep. His family had just been turned away from the place they hoped to live because of an illegal practice on the part of his landlord. “You’re a lawyer,” the boy said. “I have no money for you now, but if you can help me to get justice, I swear I will repay you many times over.” Michael Cohen refused to help. And wouldn’t you know? Donald Trump was that landlord.

Once, many years ago, Donald Trump was upset not to be on the cover of Time magazine when he so clearly deserved it. Michael Cohen was determined to make this right. He called Time magazine very angrily to order a copy and photoshopped Donald Trump onto the cover.

On Michael Cohen’s daughter’s wedding day, a man came to him with a simple request. “My daughter has been gravely insulted by a terrible man,” the man said. “Unspeakable, disgusting insults that beggar the imagination and haunt me every night. I have lost faith in America. I beg you to stand with me, against him. I will give you whatever you ask.” When Michael Cohen heard what the man had to say, he was so moved that he ran off immediately and volunteered to represent the terrible man. That was years ago. And, can you believe it? Donald Trump was that terrible man.

Roy Cohn, Donald Trump’s former mentor and friend, called Donald Trump to ask him to his bedside when he was dying. Michael Cohen screened the call so Donald Trump would not have to answer.

One very cold and windy night, Michael Cohen was carrying a well-done steak through a snowstorm. He encountered a young boy selling matches who had lit his entire bundle so as to warm himself. He was shivering from cold and hunger. He held out his hands to Michael Cohen, begging for a scrap of meat. Michael Cohen kept walking and brought Donald Trump the steak while it was still mostly warm.

Michael Cohen swallowed a tape of Donald Trump saying something very bad, and the tape has slowly wended its way through his digestive system ever since. Only when it passes will Donald Trump truly be free.

Many years ago, Donald Trump would have had to join the Army had it not been discovered by one very clever doctor that he had bone spurs. Well, Michael Cohen was those bone spurs.

Read more from Alexandra Petri: